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In a case which revealed extreme workplace tensions within a secondary school, a teacher who claimed that he was maliciously branded unsafe to work with children after confiscating a mobile phone from a pupil in class has failed in a High Court bid for £250,000 in damages.
The teacher said that his professional reputation was left in tatters by his treatment following the incident at the ‘challenging’ school. A number of allegations that he had made inappropriate use of force against pupils had made their way onto his enhanced criminal record certificate and wrecked his employment prospects.
During his time at the school, the teacher had on three occasions been the subject of disciplinary proceedings and had twice been issued with ‘letters of professional advice’. He was given a final written warning after the mobile phone incident and ultimately left the school under a compromise agreement with a £28,000 pay-off.
He sued the local education authority, claiming malicious falsehood, breach of contract, misrepresentation and negligence. However, in dismissing his claim, the Court found that the school had been obliged to treat child protection as its top priority and to provide information to the police when asked.
He claimed that a chronology provided to the police and a professional body by the school contained serious inaccuracies. However, whilst recognising that it was an ‘imperfect document’, the Court found that it could not be viewed as misleading, unfair or partial. The school’s duty to provide information to the police in a privileged context was not affected by the terms of the compromise agreement.
The Court accepted that the school’s head had been ‘horrified’ when the governors refused to summarily dismiss the teacher and had been ‘glad to see the back of him’. However, she would never have involved herself in deliberately exaggerating or falsifying allegations against him and whatever she had done, whether right or wrong, had been driven by her genuine belief that he posed a risk to children.